KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Before the kickoff and after the final whistle, there will be time for Sporting Kansas City’s players to reconnect and fraternize with their former captain.
The 90-minute span in between? That’s business as usual, and Davy Arnaud is now the adversary.
The veteran midfielder now captains the expansion Montreal Impact, who visit Livestrong Sporting Park on Saturday (8:30 pm ET; watch LIVE online).
Arnaud, who spent his first 10 professional seasons in Kansas City, was traded away in the offseason to get left back and MLS Expansion Draft casualty Seth Sinovic back from the new MLS side. And while the home fans are likely to show their appreciation for his decade of service, which included 43 goals and two years as captain, Sporting forward Kei Kamara expects a raucous Cinco de Mayo crowd to give Arnaud an earful once the action begins.
“They’re going to welcome him,” Kamara said after Friday’s training session. “I hope they do. But definitely, he’s going to get what every player gets whenever they leave a team. What’s that chant? ‘KC Reject?’ Yeah, I’ve gotten that everywhere. I’ve been more of a reject than anybody else, so he’s definitely going to get it at some point.”
That doesn’t diminish the respect Sporting have for their former comrade, ’keeper and current captain Jimmy Nielsen told MLSsoccer.com on Friday.
“He’s definitely been one of the biggest players in Kansas City’s history,” Nielsen said. “He was here for so many years. Incredible teammate, fantastic guy, great player and he was a great captain for several years for the team. I really, really respect what he’s done.”
And once the game gets under way, Sporting’s players also expect Arnaud, whose career has been marked by an intensely competitive nature, to give as good as he gets.
“He’s a fighter,” midfielder Graham Zusi said. “Always has been. Always will be, I think. He’s going to battle for 90 minutes.”
As game as Arnaud and his new teammates might be, though, they’ll still face an uphill struggle on Saturday.
Sporting, who lead the East with a 7-1-0 record, are coming off a bye week. The 2-5-2 Impact have lost just one of their last four in league play, but they’re also coming off a scoreless midweek draw against Toronto FC in the first semifinal leg of the Amway Canadian Championship.
Montreal manager Jesse Marsch has promised “a lot of new faces” on Saturday, but Sporting aren’t expecting a walkover against a reserve-heavy side.
“I think they’ll be fine from the turnaround,” Zusi said. “I don’t think they’re going to have any trouble finding some energy, especially coming into a park like ours. I’m expecting a hard-fought match, and probably pretty physical as well.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.